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Hamlin bounces back in Chase with New Hampshire win



Loudon, NH (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin rebounded in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by winning Sunday's Sylvania 300 with a dominating performance at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Hamlin, who started the Chase in the first seed, vowed to win at New Hampshire after his disappointing finish last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver ran out of fuel on the final lap and ended up finishing 16th in the Chase-opener, putting him 15 points out of the lead.

He backed up his words after leading 193 of 300 laps and crossing the finish line 2.7 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Jimmie Johnson, to claim his Sprint Cup Series-leading fifth win of the season.

"It doesn't hurt to have a little confidence in your team," Hamlin said. "I know we've made a couple of big mistakes over the last two weeks. I said we were fast enough to make it up, and we were. This is my team, and I'm excited about everything. These are lightning-fast race cars these guys are giving me."

Hamlin started 32nd but quickly made his way to the front and passed teammate Kyle Busch for the lead on lap 94. He held a six-second advantage over Johnson just before the fourth and final caution came with 28 laps remaining.

"Our car was extremely strong, and I have a really good knack for this racetrack," Hamlin said. "The two of those together, along with a crew chief like Darian (Grubb), it's a winning combination."

There were no incidents in this race. The first caution was a competition yellow due to rain that fell on this 1.058-mile track overnight. The other three cautions were for debris.

Hamlin not only scored his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory but also gave team owner Joe Gibbs his 100th career win in NASCAR's premier series.

Johnson's second-place finish moved him atop the point standings. He holds only a one-point lead over Brad Keselowski, who finished sixth.

"We had the next best car and finished second," Johnson said. "We've got some really great races coming up for this 48 team, starting with next weekend (at Dover International Speedway). I'm really excited about things."

Keselowski had led in points following his win at Chicagoland.

"We just had a decent day, not an awesome day or even a bad day," he said. "We made something happen there at the end, and we had some great speed on the long runs. It wasn't quite the short-run speed that we needed to keep pace. That 11 car (Hamlin) was just phenomenal today, and they did a great job."

Jeff Gordon finished third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. Tony Stewart, the defending series champion, placed seventh. The top-seven finishers are all in this year's Chase field.

Non-title contenders Joey Logano, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman completed the top-10. Vickers had to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change.

The other Chase drivers and their finishing positions included: Kevin Harvick (11th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13th), Matt Kenseth (14th), Martin Truex Jr. (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th).

With the win, Hamlin moved to within seven points of the lead. Stewart trails Johnson by 10 points, while Kahne and Bowyer are both 15 markers behind.

The winner of the second race in the Chase has gone on to win the championship the past three years. Stewart did it last year, while Johnson accomplished the feat in 2009 and '10.

09/23 18:44:33 ET


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